How adults can increase working knowledge in any language
“So I’ve been making flashcards to study new vocabulary words,” Victoria begins, “but I don’t know how to really learn them. Do you have any tips? How do I learn more words in English?”
Her question is common, and one every student asks me at some point in their language learning process. And they all get the same non-sexy, non-exciting response —
“Reading is the fastest way to increase your working vocabulary. Both in your first language and in your second language.”
Then comes the common rebuttal.
“But how is it…
“Love is action not just words,” is a common phrase I remember hearing growing up. And while there’s truth in that statement, just being nice to others is not all love can fully be.
Just take the Hallmark industry, for example. During the “love holiday” of Valentine’s, they sell over 144 million cards, expressing the words of love many people don’t know how to find on their own.
Of course, a handwritten note inside the card may make it even more personal, but there is still the absence of spoken words when it comes to expressing love.
Meeting my husband…
I recently read an article in the BBC that during 2020, the number of native English speakers learning a foreign language for the first time had more than doubled.
Surprised? So was I.
Because, typically, English speakers are known for being monolingual and proud of it. Ever heard any version of the following…
“English is spoken all around the world.”
“Most other people already know English, why would I want to learn another language?”
“I already speak the best language, why do I need to learn anything else?”
“I’m too old to learn another language anyway.”
“English is easy, and…
“I can’t keep going. I need to head back,” I told Adrián. I knew those weren’t the words he wanted to hear. “But you can keep going, and we can meet back at the car,” I tried to reassure him as I avoided making eye contact. I didn’t want to see his disappointment.
It was now 8am and we had been climbing the mountain Iztaccíhuatl for just over four hours. Based on our estimates, we had about two hours left to finally summit.
But I couldn’t continue.
Physically, I felt fine. My legs were stronger than ever. My heart rate…
“Do you keep a journal in Spanish?” my student Sunkyung asks me. We’ve been meeting consistently for over 2 years to practice and improve her English speaking, and this is the first time she’s asked me about my personal language study routine.
I hesitate, trying to find the right words.
She continues, “I’ve kept a daily journal for 3 years in English, but with everything recently, I’ve stopped. And I don’t know if I want to start back again.” Her forehead furrows in worry.
“Well, when I first started practicing my Spanish, I did journal almost every day for two…
“That smells like Thanksgiving,” my husband said as he walked out of the office into the kitchen.
“Stuffing done, just mashed potatoes, green beans and pumpkin pie to go,” I replied.
It was 8:30am on Thanksgiving Day, but we would have to hold off our cravings until the next day. Even though I was prepping and cooking all the delicious dishes on Thursday, we wouldn’t have time to sit down, relax, and enjoy them until Friday.
And it’s not because I work in retail. Ever since moving to Mexico and starting our online business — where we work with international…
“I can’t handle it. What am I supposed to do at home? I can’t talk to anyone!? The hours of TV are driving me crazy. I just keep eating. I need to see people! I can’t stand being alone so long.”
While humans are social creatures, too much interaction can often leave us with little sense of our own self.
In today’s society, extroverted behaviors are applauded and rewarded. And oftentimes, introverted actions are depicted as undesirable.
Just think of any popular high school drama — where the popular kids have tons of friends, participate in sports, and throw parties…
“I called and asked if I could register my husband.”
“And what did she say?”
“She was confused, but I don’t know how to say it another way.”
“Next time, say you want to book an appointment for your husband.”
My student Regina — a Brazilian living in America — explains her speaking struggles to me. This is a regular occurrence in my weekly English classes, where I become part counselor in how to navigate talking with native English speakers. …
“It’s sealed? We’ll have to unseal it.”
My eyebrows furrow. Did I understand her correctly?
“Oh, okay. But it’s my vote.” I reply, trying to make sure nothing goes amiss.
She pulls out a box cutter, and slides the blade underneath the sealed envelope flap.
“All international postage needs to be inspected,” she explains.
The cutter opens the manila envelope and out slides a white unaddressed sealed envelope.
“But that one can’t be opened. Because it’s my vote. It’s my first time, so I didn’t know.”
I’m nervous. It’s my first time voting from outside the United States, and I…
Have you ever stared down a long page of verb conjugations? Have you ever created flashcards for article matching? Have you ever memorized the different usages for prepositions?
If so, you’re not alone. But like most language learners, all of this grammar study often leaves you more frustrated than when you started. And, unfortunately, the grammar drills probably didn’t improve your speaking fluency.
While grammar explains how language functions, the understanding of grammar is not needed to communicate clearly and correctly.
Before I dive into the reasons why you should stop stressing about grammar, let me be perfectly clear —…
Born a Midwestern American, now a permanent Mexican resident. Outdoor adventurer, language enthusiast, and lover of classical music.